Finding Catfish Holes

Catfish are known for being bottom feeders. They’re also known for living in muddy water and hiding in muddy holes.

If you’re wondering why catfish will burrow themselves into the mud. They’ll do this for multiple reasons. 

Sometimes they do it to spawn. Other times they’re looking for a safe spot to rest. Still other times they’re looking for a good ambush spot.

I’ve caught quite a few catfish and I can tell you that finding catfish holes is not all about luck. There is definitely a science to it. 

Understanding why catfish get themselves into holes is the best way for you to learn how to find them.

Catfish Holes For Ambushing Prey

If water levels are high and there is a need to escape a threat, then the most likely reason a catfish will hide in a hole is for ambush. 

These doesn’t mean that the catfish will completely bury itself. They may only be partially covered or have their head emerging from a hollow log.

Some catfish don’t have good eyesight. But they do have great senses of smell and taste. 

So, hiding themselves as much as possible will give them an advantage over their prey. This is why catfish often thrive in muddy water. They may not be able to see well, but their prey can’t either. 

Combine this with a good hiding spot like a rock ledge with a hole in it or a hollow log and you have a great catfish hole.

Finding these catfish holes can seem difficult, but I’ll cover how you can look for clues later.

How To Find Catfish Holes

If you’re looking to catch catfish and need some tips on how to find catfish holes this sections will help.

You’ll find advice on how to find them depending on the type of water you’re targeting.

Catfish Holes In Rivers

Rivers are great for catching catfish. I caught my personal best catfish in a river. It was laying in wait on the downstream side of a big tree trunk.

Believe it or not, I caught it with a plastic craw.  I did put some crawfish scent on it to make sure fish hold on. 

That Channel Cat went over 10 pounds and it pulled like crazy.

So, what’s the key to finding catfish in rivers?

Looking for current breaks that make a good ambush spot.

Anything that blocks the current, and has a good supply of food coming by is a good bet. Look for laydown trees. Rocks, boulders and bridge pilings.

Often times, when bridges are built, the area downstream of the river will have a big deep hole. This hole will have current passing over it.

Catfish Holes In Lakes

Catching catfish in large lakes can be a challenge. But if the lake has a good supply of baitfish, that you can use this as a clue on where to get started.

Often times other predatory fish like bass will be feeding at the surface. While they’re busy busting bait on top, catfish can be found down below waiting for any dying or injured fish to fall.

Another option for finding catfish in lakes is to look for the type of cover they like.

Catfish Holes In Ponds

Catching catfish in a pond is very similar to other water bodies. Catfish in ponds will strike similar baits as well.

Try bringing smelly pieces of fish or liver. Prepared bait shop baits will also work.

Bottom fishing will work in ponds too. But beware that just like a lake, a pond may stratify. 

If this happens and you’re fishing below the thermocline, you could be wasting your time.

So, make sure you present your baits at the right depth. 

Bank Fishing For Catfish

If you want to know how deep it is in the area you want to fish from the bank. Then, you have a couple of options.

You can guess by casting a weighted lure of sinker out there and counting down how long it takes to reach bottom.

Another option is to get a castable fish finder. These small sonar units can be cast out and will send a signal back to your smartphone. 

This will give you a look at the bottom and give you a slight idea as to whether it’s rocky or muddy.. 

Luckily, these sonar units are usually less expensive that your regular boat mounted types.

If you do have one of these sonar units, look for holes or depressions in the bottom. These will be prime catfish holes for them to hide in.

When you find a nice catfish hole, make sure you can get your baits down there. A good sonar unit will allow you to see lures and baits sink to the bottom.

Noodling For Catfish

Noodling for catfish is the practice of using your hands to reach into catfish holes. When you reach in, the catfish will bite down on your hand. If the catfish doesn’t bite down on your hand then you may have to try and reach into the catfish’s mouth and get a good jaw grip on it.

Once you’ve gotten a grip on the catfish’s jaw, you then try to pull the catfish out of the hole.

Noodles will often times submerge themselves underwater to try and located catfish holes. 

Noodling is mainly practiced in the southern US. However, it has been outlawed in some states.

Noodling for catfish is currently legal in fourteen states. 

One of the primary reasons noodling has been made illegal in some states is that it can take a significant toll on catfish populations.

This tells you how effective a technique it can be for finding large catfish.

Noodlers often fish with a spotter or a friend with them. This is definitely a good idea as it provides an added measure of safety. Noodling is also much more common during the catfish spawn when they will dig themselves into holes. Read more on that below.

Spawning Catfish

Catfish will spawn in what are known as catfish dens. Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) for example will spawn when the water temp reaches between 70 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When this happens the a male and female catfish will pair up in a den. The den will be a secluded spot. This is what is sometimes referred to as a catfish hole.

It can be in a pile of  wood or a hollowed out log. It could be  a crevice in a rocky ledge.

Once they settle on a spot, the female will lay her eggs and then leave the den. The male stays behind to protect the eggs for a few days. 

The eggs hatch and then small catfish stay under the protection of the male for a short time. 

So, if you find a single catfish on a den, it will most likely be the male. 

Noodling For Catfish During The Spawn

During this time of the year many anglers like to go noodling.  This has been made illegal in certain locations. So, if you’re planning on noodling this summer, make sure to check local regulations. 

Interrupting the catfish spawn can prevent the eggs from being laid. And if the male is removed, the catfish fry will lose their protection.

The argument for preventing noodling during the spawn is to preserve the catfish population.

Catching catfish after the spawn is not a problem. And after the spawn catfish will be hungry and active. They need to recuperate the energy they lost during the spawn. So fishing for them by regular baited hook techniques should be more successful.

But, catfish don’t all spawn at once. Some catfish will spawn early. Other will spawn late.

Do Catfish Dig Holes For Safety?

Catfish sometimes will burrow into a muddy bottom when they detect low water levels. If a lake or river starts to dry up, catfish will will of rouse try to find an escape into deeper water. But if this is not available, then they’ll dig themselves into the mud. 

Aside from these desperate measures catfish will also hide on muddy bottoms and in all sorts of holes.

Catfish do this to find a safe comfortable spot. This will be especially true of the smaller specimens.


Catfish holes may seem like they’re tough to find at first. Stick with it.
Remember that catfish can survive and thrive in muddy waters. Also, keep in mind that they’re bottom feeders with excellent sensors for smell and taste.
Keep at it and once you find a few holes you should be able to put together a pattern for your area.